Ireland Ireland Ireland Ireland

Tourism Ireland

Tourism in numbers - Europe

Europe is the most important tourist region in the world. According to UNWTO, in 2006 nearly 55% of all international tourist arrivals (461 million) were on the “old continent”.Southern Europe and the Mediterranean region are the favourite holiday destinations in Europe. According to UNWTO, in 2006 about 165 million tourists visited these regions (3).

At present, the predominant summer tourist flows in Europe are from north to south, to the coastal zone. However, coastal and mountain tourism are the segments that are most vulnerable to climate change, and the Mediterranean region is the world's most popular holiday region: it attracts some 120 million visitors from northern Europe each year, the largest international flow of tourists on the globe, and their spending is in excess of EUR 100 billion (1).

Tourism in numbers - Ireland

In 2008, 7.4 million visitors came to the Republic of Ireland, compared to 2.1 million to Northern Ireland, where the industry is worth 6.3 billlion Euros and 573 million Pounds, respectively (4,5). In terms of Gross National Product, tourism in the Republic of Ireland is worth 2.3% of total expenditure in the economy and 5.3% of the overall labour force, whereas in Northern Ireland it accounts for 3.7% of Gross Value Added (4,6).

Vulnerabilities - Ireland

The UK and Ireland are well known for tourism, in particular for their rugged landscapes. They have no pronounced high- and off-peak seasons for tourism. Visitors travel to the region the whole year round and relatively irrespective of the weather. In general, climate change may bring, if anything, positive effects for Great Britain and Ireland (3).

Ireland could attain 2-3 'very good months' by the end of the century (it currently has none) (7). This will probably increase visitor numbers to the coast. Many of the most iconic cultural sites on the Irish coast are historical defensive sites. Built on cliff-top locations, these sites are prone to periodic erosion. The increased frequency of cliff erosion will make this more of a management issue in the future (8). Popular tourists drives are likely to require more frequent maintenance and even capital upgrades in the face of increased erosion threats from sea level rise. The same issues pertain to many access roads and railway lines that follow the coastline. Occasional blockages of roads and railway lines by rockfalls and landslides may increasein frequency with the projected changes in precipitation and greater contrasts between wet and dry periods (8).

The narrowing and loss of beaches in front of seawalls leads to loss of recreational space accompanied by loss of environmental quality. With increased sea level and storminess, seawalls themselves will come under increased wave attack requiring maintenance and even enlargement. To maintain the beach requires either that the seawall be shifted landward or removed (a difficult choice given the infrastructure that is located behind such structures) or that the beach be artificially nourished with sand brought in from an external source (8)

Vulnerabilities – In general

There are four broad categories of climate change impacts that will affect tourism destinations, their competitiveness and sustainability (2):

  • Direct climatic impacts
  • Indirect environmental change impacts. Changes in water availability, biodiversity loss, reduced landscape aesthetic, altered agricultural production (e.g., wine tourism), increased natural hazards, coastal erosion and inundation, damage to infrastructure and the increasing incidence of vector-borne diseases will all impact tourism to varying degrees.
  • Impacts of mitigation policies on tourist mobility. Policies that seek to reduce GHG emissions will lead to an increase in transport costs and may foster environmental attitudes that lead tourists to change their travel patterns.
  • Indirect societal change impacts. Climate change is thought to pose a risk to future economic growth and to the political stability of some nations. Climate change is considered a national and international security risk that will steadily intensify, particularly under greater warming scenarios. Tourists, particularly international tourists, are averse to political instability and social unrest.

Adaptation strategies – In general

Climate change is slowly entering into decision-making of a range of tourism stakeholders (e.g., investors, insurance companies, tourism enterprises, governments, and tourists); studies that have examined the climate change risk appraisal of local tourism officials and operators have consistently found relatively low levels of concern and little evidence of long-term strategic planning in anticipation of future changes in climate (2).

There is also some evidence that local tourism operators may be overestimating their adaptive capacity (e.g., capacity to make snow under the warmest scenarios). The incorporation of adaptation to climate change into the collective minds of private and public sector tourism decision-makers (‘mainstreaming’) remains several steps away (2).

The capacity of the tourism sector to adapt to climate change is thought to be relatively high due to its dynamic nature and therefore there will be important opportunities for tourism to reduce the vulnerability of communities to climate change (2).


The references below are cited in full in a separate map 'References'. Please click here if you are looking for the full references for Ireland.

  1. EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  2. UNWTO, UNEP and WHO (2008)
  3. Deutsche Bank Research (2008)
  4. Failte Ireland (2009a);
  5. Northern Ireland Tourist Board (2009), in: Cooper and Boyd (2011)
  6. CogentSI (2007), in: Cooper and Boyd (2011)
  7. Nicholls and Amelung (2008), in: Cooper and Boyd (2011)
  8. Cooper and Boyd (2011)